I had no intentions of attending the Namhansanseong Cultural Festival on the outskirts of Seoul. I had no idea it was ongoing when my husband and I hopped off the bus headed for our first hike in Korea. It was the music that lured us there. We had to find out what was going on.
This festival was a local event and Cameron and I ended up being the only foreigners there. The Koreans seemed tickled by our presence. At every turn, we were offered food and wine. We were welcomed with smiles and hellos. I even ended up with a personal escort to the ladies room! Koreans can often be reserved, so this reception was a welcome change.
My favorite encounter of the day was with a Korean man who spoke absolutely no English. He saw me watching people writing wishes to be tied to a straw tower that would later be burned. I was watching like a tourist, but he thrust a pen in my hand and literally pushed me toward the table. So, I wrote a wish, and then he showed me how to tie my paper to the tower (see pictures below). With gestures, grunts, and smiles we communicated and I was pleased to be included.
On the surface, the festival was like any other we would see in America. There was music and entertainment, craft booths, food and even coverage from a local news crew. Of course, upon closer inspection it’s all so different – everything is meant to celebrate the Korean culture. A couple of hours were well spent here. People were in a festive mood, and we were happy to watch and celebrate with them.
A picture together after I wrote down my wishes for the year ahead.
Securing my wish -- and learning how to tie it the proper way.
All the wishes.